Leadership has always been an interesting subject for millennia. Everything we experience in this world is intricately tied to leadership – good or bad. Brian Tracy, one of the most authoritative global voices on leadership says, ‘the truest test of leadership is how well you function in a crisis’. This makes it a great learning experience to study leaders in crisis situations. Ukraine was invaded by Russia on the 24th of February 2022. The war is still on-going with over US$565 billion worth of property destroyed so far. Over 24 000 people have died and over 10 million displaced. There is debate over how well or badly, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukraine President is handling the war. Regardless, there are leadership lessons to draw from him.
Leading From The Front
You often hear people emphasising how a good leader should lead from the front. Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been demonstrating exactly what that means. At one point he was offered to be evacuated by the US but declined. Rather he preferred to remain in Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, which has been the ultimate key target of Russian forces. There have been several times we have seen his video addresses whilst fearlessly out in the open. No wonder why we have seen civilians signing up to join the Ukrainian forces.
It is even been cited that one of the reasons it has not been easy for Russia to successfully take over is the united Ukrainian civilian front. This has been largely inspired by Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s example of leading from the front. I am reminded of what Elon Musk once said, ‘I do not believe that people should be experiencing hardship while the CEO is like, off on vacation’. That belief is quite strong in the Ukrainian president as evidenced by his decision to not leave Kyiv.
Precise And Concise Communication
I have watched a number of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s public addresses. One of the things that stood out to me was his choice of words when communicating. You can see that by how to-the-point his addresses are. Not only that, they are unambiguous, making it easy to understand. Another notable element of his addresses is how they engage people’s emotions. He does so by genuinely expressing emotions when needs be. That is how effectively business leaders should communicate. If you are a business leader I would encourage you to go through his addresses, if you have not already. Pay close attention to what I just said and you will be inspired to improve your communication.
Every time Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made an address during this crisis one thing has been recurrent – his casual dress code. We have been seeing him wearing olive green t-shirts. The overall look has been a military one which makes him more relatable. He has abandoned the usual formal wear from before the crisis. This seemingly small thing is a big deal in crisis management. This has made him more relatable to the armed forces. It is funny that some people even thought it was inappropriate for him to dress casually when addressing people.
Many people applauded Volodymyr Zelenskyy for dressing in a way that relates and connects him to the armed forces. This is a lesson that business leaders should emulate as well. At times you see business leaders in suits visiting say, their construction sites. That makes them far-removed from the workers who will feel lesser and distanced. It is important to dress in a way that enables you to be approachable and relatable. Your dress code is not just clothes on your body, it all embodies a message.
The Ukrainian war is labelled as the most notable geopolitical mess since World War 2. It no doubt will go down in history as the most topical war crisis of 2022. It is also no doubt that Volodymyr Zelenskyy will go down in history as one the most topical heads of state. He is already topical in academic classes involving leadership theories and crisis management. This just shows how remarkably he has been handling this crisis. For someone who was a comedian and actor before becoming president it came as a surprise to many.